The costumes have been fitted, the props are made, and the performers are bubbling with excitement in the school gym.
The students at F.G. Leary are gearing up for their annual winter/spring performance, and this year, they’re tackling Shakespeare.
More than 150 students and staff will bring classic comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to the Chilliwack Cultural Centre stage on March 2 and 3.
The version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that F.G. Leary is doing is an adaptation written by Marieka Greene, specifically for children.
“The language is poetic but it’s not Shakespeare language,” says drama teacher and play director, Wendy Bickis, adding that there are hints of his poetry throughout the play.
“The language is really important, but Shakespeare wrote his plays not to be read but to be performed. Shakespeare needs to be seen to be understood.”
What’s also fascinating about a group of elementary students taking on a Shakespeare play is that every single intermediate child at the fine arts school is involved in the play, in one form or another.
“We wanted the kids to see that the production is not just the actors, but a huge process that involves many aspects of theatre,” says Bickis.
That means they’re doing everything from onstage roles to backstage duties to promotions.
There’s the cast of 32 actors, plus 30 dancers, a large choir, stage managers, costume designers, a publicity team, prop making and technical design.
Each student chose what he or she wanted to do. The actors had to audition for the roles, and yes, there were callbacks.
Harmony Brady, a Grade 6 student, plays the role of Titania the queen fairy.
She’s been in plays before, but never had lines. This time she gets to speak.
“I counted them to see what I have, and I have 26 lines in total,” she says. “They’re not really difficult to memorize, I just practiced them a lot and rehearsed as much as I could.”
She says Titania is like two characters, starting out as a “dominant, strong and powerful” fairy then later changing to a “cooing, silly, in-love” character.
“The most fun thing so far is all of the acting because it’s really fun to get onstage and be another character,” says Harmony.
Grade 6 student, Payton Price, will be playing the role of Puck, a “really enthusiastic, excited, playful character who likes tricks,” she explains.
“I really like how you can just act and you don’t have to be embarrassed. You don’t have to be yourself — you get to be a totally different person when you’re onstage,” says Payton.
Her costume is bright orange with copper and sparkly accents.
“I like the wings,” she says holding up her arms. “I like how flowy and fun they are. And the pants are massive — I can fit three more legs in here!”
The costumes were made and designed by teacher Karra Simpson. With the help from students measuring and cutting fabric, and making fairy crowns, Simpson made about 100 costumes. The actors and dancers will be donning Elizabethan pieces as well as Bollywood costumes.
Leary’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream also features modern music, including Hello by Adele. Janice Braun is the music director, and the children in the choir know all five of the songs that will be performed in the play off by heart.
Lauren Kerr is the volunteer dance choreographer.
While most kids have been spending rehearsal time singing, dancing and acting in the gym, others have been in classrooms doing all the the behind-the-scene work.
Some kids learned how a circuit works so they could wire simple LED lanterns that will be hung on the stage or held by the actors. They also made rocks for the forest out of papier mâché.
Other Grade 4, 5 and 6 students were responsible for making posters and writing radio scripts to promote the show.
The teachers like to describe the entire production as “creative chaos” and the students and staff are loving it.
“It’s very student driven and a lot of it is student-led, but the teacher’s passion is what really gets the students excited,” says Bickis. “There’s something about A Midsummer Night’s Dream that the kids just eat it up.”
It’s the magic, the fairies, the love, the trickery, the potions, and the mischief, she says.
Eleven-year-old Harmony Brady (Titania) agrees.
“I like how magical it is,” says Harmony. ”You get to see it from day one and it transforms. You see it (at the end) with costumes and props and it’s magical.”
You can see F.G. Leary’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream March 2 and 3 at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre. There will be two performances each day, a matinee at 10:30 a.m. and an evening performance at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $10, or $5 for kids 12 and under.
The play is about one hour and 10 minutes long.
Tickets can be purchased at chilliwackculturalcentre.ca or by calling the box office at 604-391-SHOW (7469).